Testimony – Do for Elections What We Have Done for Probate

Monday I testified to the Government Administration and Elections Committee (GAE) on S.B. 1083 that would empower a task force to study regionalization of election administration.  From my testimony: <read>

In evaluating various organization structures it is customary to look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The strengths of our current system are:

  • Its low cost compared to other states, as shown by Matt Waggner on S.B. 1051 last week, and
  • resistance to fraud or error in statewide elections, based on a decentralized, adversarial system (Yet, not in local elections, where the current system has weaknesses which pose risks.)

Its weaknesses, several of which have been obvious of late are,

  • its lack of professional training and. in some cases, action,
  • an inability to attract, grow, and compensate skilled professionals, and
  • the inability of the system to solve and correct problems

To elaborate on that last point. The Citizen Audit conducted an unofficial recount of Bridgeport in 2010 – we found that votes were not counted and that ballots counted and voters checked-in varied significantly in both directions.

  • The current system never investigated, or corrected those specific problems, nor developed effective means of preventing or recovering from such problems. Cases-in-point,
    • towns continue to run out of ballots, and
    • Hartford’s recent discrepancies in absentee ballots, accompanied by official reports of more votes counted than ballots, that I believe, have not been investigated, and officially corrected.

The current system has limitations that, in my opinion, cannot be overcome with municipal election management. Regionalization offers opportunities not possible under the limitations of the current system, including:

  • Regions with multiple full time jobs with specialized expertise, with opportunities for individuals to gain experience to be effective professionals. As articulated by Mr. Waggner last week — when it comes to elections there is a lot for a single person to know and to manage.
  • The opportunity for shared expertise and resources can provide more voter service, with regional “vote centers” safely supporting early voting and election-day convenience.

How often is there a bill with everyone testifying for it? Not often!

I was joined by the Registrars Of Voters Association Connecticut (ROVAC), the Town Clerks Association, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the League of Women Voters, and Fairfield Registrar, Matt Waggner.  Here is the written testimony posted by the GAE <read>

ROVAC had one concern, that Jan 2016 was too soon to start the reorganization before a Presidential Election.  I agreed for “radically different reasons” ending my testimony cautioning against a quick fix:

Rome was not built in a day. No matter what change is appropriate, it will require several years to evaluate, plan, and execute a significant transformation, while we continue to support elections along the way. I suspect 1-2 years for the task force and Legislature to choose a direction, 1-2 years for a small agency of appropriate professionals empowered to plan the transition in detail, and likely 2 years to perform the transition. Probate reorganization, a similar, yet simpler, transformation, I believe took at least four years

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